What now for Windows Server 2003 users?

Ross MacKenzie
Microsoft Surface FY18 Lifestyle Photography (Mad Architects)-min

If you’re one of the millions of Windows Server 2003 users, you need to act quickly as all support is being withdrawn on July 14, but what are your options?

More than a decade after it launched, Windows Server 2003 still accounts for 39% of all Windows Server installations. This is concerning as we’re rapidly approaching July 14 – the date on which Windows Server 2003 reaches ‘end of life’ and all Microsoft support is withdrawn.

Why is ‘end of life’ an issue for my business?

With support withdrawn your business becomes an obvious target for cyber-criminals. It faces non-compliance risks, compatibility issues and noticeable performance problems as the 12-year-old system struggles to meet modern demands.

Forrester Research analyst Richard Fichera warns against complacency: "Many people will be saying that they haven't had a breach in 12 years, so why should there be in the near future - but (Server) 2003 is not nearly as secure as 2008 or 2012, and I think the extinction point will be some time in the next couple of years."

Replacing Windows Server 2003: Your options

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. As every company is different, systems must be chosen based on whether they align with your company’s needs and objectives. If your firm is constantly expanding, for example, scalability will be a priority. A business that relies on a wide range of technologies already may instead prioritise interoperability.

The Windows Server range

The first obvious option, aside from sticking with Windows Server 2003, is to move on to one of its successors.

Windows Server 2008 R2 was released in July 2009 and is still being supported by Microsoft at present. The downside is that it has already entered its own extended support phase, meaning the end isn’t too far away; it’s actually set to reach end of life at the start of 2020.

Windows Server 2012 R2 was released in October 2013 and benefits from almost a decade of development. This too is subject to Microsoft’s Lifecycle policy, with an end of life date in January 2023, but it is much better equipped to meet the demands of today’s digital enterprise.

A cloud-powered future?

By relying on other Microsoft products like Office 365 and Lync, companies can break through the financial and logistical barriers that have been holding them back for years. The cloud’s true potential is explored further in this piece [link to third article], where we compare the technology with its on-premises counterparts.


Ash Patel, Cobweb Solutions’ Director of Business Transformation, says the choice of a cloud partner is crucial: “At Cobweb, we work with over 6000 clients providing advice and support to businesses of all size, locations, industries and circumstance – recently we delivered an emergency migration to a new client in just 4 hours.”

Your questions answered

Migration from Windows Server 2003 is imperative and it doesn’t have to be difficult. But you need to move quickly before all support is withdrawn on July 14. 

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